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How to Kill the Juniperman

How To Kill The Juniperman
by Alexandra Seidel


The augur speaks felicitations against the stinging moon.
She holds her screams like water in a sieve,
holds holds
holds on
but the juniper tree's shadow is long.
She names one daughter,
but has found the silence
when the midwife asks for a second name.


Lonely as hills,
but why is there no peace
in a mother's old age?
When they are small
our worries are small
and when they grow up
the worries just grow
What is left for a mother
when they die?


In our house
the shadows spoke.
The darkness spoke
and sang lullabies to me at midnight.
Grandmother said
mother died with my name
strong on her lips.
A shadow at grandmother's eyes
tells me
she does not tell me all.


Her tongue was juniper black
(and everyone knows the Juniperman.)
Her half beating heart was torn to one
(and everyone knows it was Juniperwords
that swallowed that second beat.)


Grandmother says
fathers are for those who live in the village
not at its fringes like we.
She tells me
having a father
turns the other children into ugly beasts
and that's why they do not like me.
They would throw stones at me,
Grandmother says, if they weren't
so afraid
of the shadows.


Oh sweet daughter's daughter,
can you forgive me
that I was late?
Too late to safe your mother
from a wolfish juniperman,
too late
to still superstition's murderous hand?
You are shadow
and I am sorry for that.


Grandmother left
the other night,
a quiet night,
not too warm, not too cold,
just mellow, the smell of juniper thick in the air.
The house is a cave
The village a murderous sea
The shadows whisper
but my ears are swollen with the
beetlestings of my cries.


Time aches like an ointment along my face.
Not yet twenty times twelve moons
and I am already lonely as hills.

(Hills are strong, they may hold echoes
if there is someone to just speak a word.)

There is a new augur in the village.
He is young and unafraid.
Augur's have no fathers
and they do not consider
throwing stones.

The Juniperman, the Juniperman!
Run, bright girl,
it's the Juniperman!


I would not have thought that his skin
tasted of juniper. Beneath him
I was warm and not alone.
The shadows call him wicked,
curse his sacred bones with secret tongue;
The darkness calls him foul,
sings songs of warning to me
at midnight when my augur sleeps
and when I wash the taste of juniper
from my swollen tongue.

The Juniperman! The Juniperman!
Run, bright girl,
from the Juniperman!


Ten traitorous moons, I would die
in ten traitorous moons.
The augur--my augur, hah!--does not need to spell it out.
The shadows knew, the darkness knew,
but, oh, Grandmother, I was lonely.

Ten moons.

Ten moons of traitors, indeed;

unless I leave this
house, this home
with starlight whisper in my hair.
Grandmother, I will leave your bones behind
and take the words of shadows and darkness with me;
I will run
and the dust behind my back will call:
Ten traitorous moons!
and I will turn,
my arms a cradle,
will laugh the dust to moonthick clouds
and I will say: ten foul traitor moons,
but count them with me
count out loud
a thousand thousand victorious stars
and the darkness between them singing
and the shadows around us


Behold the Juniperman!
his tongue, once strong,
now wilting
as the shadows are thinning and thinning
and the stars out in the sky
bright and shinning and spinning.

* * *

Alexandra Seidel dabbles in the alchemy of words. The results are less metallic, more inky: you can read them at places like Lackington's, Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, and others. If so inclined, you can follow Alexa on Twitter (@Alexa_Seidel) or read her blog:

What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?

Fantasy is awesome because for the most part, anything goes. Ever wanted to read someone's mind? Fly? Breathe underwater and swim with merfolk? Fantasy takes all of these daydreams and put the imagined worlds on paper for others to read and share. I guess there are things that are more amazing, but the fantastic worlds of fantasy are still pretty high up there.